I would have thought that by the time I got to this stage in my life I should be able to do many things with ease, but that`s what they say about many things, easily. I cannot cook thirty minute pilau in 20 minutes, nor can I build suspension bridges in my garden. I put together a DIY cabinet last year and felt like I had single-handedly built the Great Wall of China. I still have no clue what happens in a car engine or find a cure for my migraines. I haven’t won a literary award but I do work in the human rights field, an industry full of odd people, which I love, and which also means I get to travel to parts of the world I could only dream of if I were to pay for myself, but hey-ho that’s a perk. I used to go clubbing every weekend, then I got older, now it’s too loud most of the time, with bad music and underage kids. I should go to the gym, but I don’t; I shouldn`t eat starchy food, but I do. I don’t crush ice, write award winning operas or cycle up steep inclines with unflagging speed, but I am happy, sorted and content. My family’s ultimatum for me is to keep looking for a certain someone and hope that our mutual chemistry, biology and physics will work. I want to change the world, or at least my country, which is both ambitious and unattainable. My Leadership Skills class taught me to start with smaller goals, so I hope to work towards getting rid of discrimination in Kenya (and that includes fat people). Equality, equal opportunities, that sort of sh#*. (They keep asking me at family weddings, “‘what do you do these days?” Same question, so many years. “Human Rights” I say. “Oh,” and they walk away.)
I like life in my parallel universe too, filled with great music, good food, film, theatre and the written word. Reading Carol Ann Duffy’s poems and feel my body tingling everywhere. Anticipating a new Rushdie novel like an on-coming orgasm. Falling in love with Meryl Streep, again and again and again. Imagining John Lennon as the Christ of our times. Listening to Um Kolthom’s Arabic arias and getting intoxicated by her voice, the poetry twirling and twirling like a twister in the air (as if I actually understood it). Meeting the odd friend and doing something human.
I dance with the spirits of the waters and have ridden the Nile, the Ganges, the Zambezi and the Thames. I have swum the Indian, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Arabian, the Persian, Aqaba, the Red sea, Bay of Bengal, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and the Andaman. The South China was too cold. I have bungee-jumped, climbed a mountain (a very, very small one), glided across cliffs, dived deep into colourful sea life, learnt The Secret, first-hand from the Sphinx in Giza, and listened attentively to a Thai woman in Phuket, for a whole hour, not understanding a word she was saying. I’ve prayed in Mecca, meditated in India and chanted at Stonehenge (and I saw where they killed Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral, terrible thing that). I still have ambition: Beirut, Rio, Angkor Wat, Lhasa; something awaits me in the high temple in Tibet.
The best bit though is always going home and having a conversation with my sea. Gobbling on spicy street kebabs and sitting in the shade of a coconut palm understanding fully well the absolute privilege of being from this town, with its loud neighbours, overhanging balconies, girls covered in bui bui and minarets ‘doing that thing’ (to quote someone). Coconut fish and lemon pickle. Sucking on the ripest fruits of the mango season. Watching the ships come in at the Lighthouse and the full moon rise at that spot over there, you know, the one I always tell you about. The sun, so hot, we might as well be living inside it. Street vendors playing taarab and spinning tales of fantastical women and genies; that knowing looking that we give each other, the private sarcasm that invisibly holds us together, we Old Town folk, who gave this region our language, our food and our culture (Us, lazy, illiterate, iddling, yada yada-ing coastal people).
Like Sinatra, I have my few regrets, but hey-ho again, here’s a coin for every one. I’ve been shredded and broken down only to be rebuilt like Iron Man, and I have the iron bits in my left hand to prove it. Knowing initiation is the most painful part of rebirth, but the most essential. I love my made-of-steel mum, and my big and mighty dad (you ain’t seen nothin’ like The Mighty Quinn). I am desperately, desperately trying to get my kid sister to read books and listen to proper music, but I fear she’s going astray, like the siblings before her. I am forever indebted to the friends who stood by me through the Darkness. Without you, I would’ve been nothing. Those of you who left, well, here’s my number. There’s a way back for every man.
I am ready for 2011. Unlike Michelle, I am not afraid of 2012. I have no idea how long I still have to live, but it is no longer important. I like this life, I am pleased with what I’ve done with it, I am grateful for the blessings of the Great Architect, and I am happy just to carry on. Being mad, loving what I love, dancing and embarrassing my company, snoring like a motor engine. Making you laugh. Growing old and being silly (with a double chin and and a balding head). Being entitled to my anger. Being able to forgive, properly and truly. Singing like the rock star they never let me be.
The only meaningful New Year resolution I can make is to continue being me: Kid A.
Love me, or leave me high, because you can’t do both.
Bon année. Uwe na mwaka mpya mwema. كل عام وأنتم بخير.